Saturday, September 24, 2011

Time traveling, part 6

By 1966, dad had gotten his divinity degree from Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pa., and was ordained into the ministry.

I was thinking at the time that it was pretty cool being a preacher's kid, as if somehow I could dip my hand into a pool of holy water at any sanctimonious moment. Or at least, had passing access to the occasional divine intervention, if not the actual holy grail. The best I could do, though, was walk through water and not on it, but that was still mostly good enough.

By now, I was a sophomore in high school and all kinds of things were happening. I spent two summers — in 1966 and the so called Summer of Love in 1967 (the start of my junior year) — working as the maintenance boy at the community swimming pool in Coopersburg, where we lived. I was almost a big shot. When school resumed that fall, people actually knew me.

This was probably the best job I ever had. I was responsible for cleaning the locker rooms (including the commodes) after hours, as well as picking up the trash from the lawn where people laid out their blankets to sun themselves. I had one of those sticks with a metal pick on the end of it to stab and collect paper cups and hot dog wrappers. I'm telling you, I was IT.

Southern Lehigh Community Pool, site of my first job.
Whatever loose coins I found on the grounds were mine and it greatly supplemented my income. In the '60s, you see, one or two dollars a day was significant cash. Occasionally, I'd even find an actual crumpled dollar bill, making me think I'd uncovered the Mother Lode.

In the mornings, before the pool opened, I was the guy who checked the pH level of the water and dumped in bags of alum or pot ash or whatever it was that prevented outbreaks of biological extermination. Turns out it was the pool that provided my true holy water.

I also showed I could be responsible in other ways. My parents and two younger brothers went on a two-week vacation to Canada, leaving me behind, alone, with the run of the house. The place — the parsonage — did not burn down.

I also learned to drive during this era and managed not to cause mass destruction on the highways. But I still pedaled my treasured 10-speed bicycle to most places.

And I had my first real girlfriend. I was badly smitten and thought I was in love forever. I didn't realize at the time that I had a severe case of raging hormones, which I had mistaken for love. But I told Peggy I loved her. We'd go to school sock hops (really, we had to take our shoes off to dance on the gym floor) and hold each other unlawfully close. We'd go to basketball games and huddle in the upper corner of the bleachers where we just knew we were invisible. Yes, we were THAT couple.

The relationship lasted into the fall, and by 1968, our family moved yet again. Dad became a bit disillusioned with church politics and went back to teaching, and so I spent my senior year making new friends in a new school in a new town. It was our fifth move in 17 years.

It was probably for the good, though. Over the years, I lost contact with Peggy. I looked for her at class reunions, but she never came. Then, at our 40th reunion, I met a friend who had Peggy's number. She was living in Minnesota.

And so, after working up my nerve, I called her. The conversation went something like this:

"This is Bruce. Bruce Wehrle."

I could tell she was a little dubious, but I told her about the reunion, some of her friends that were there. I asked her about her family — she had married a minister — and had a couple of kids. The conversation went fairly well for about 10 minutes, only a little bit erratic and awkward, and then she interrupted:

"Gotta go. The pizza is here and it's getting cold. Nice talking to you. Bye."


Hormones. Go figure.

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